By Ritu Sharma
When we think of Switzerland, the first thing that comes to mind is its natural beauty — the abundant lakes, majestic mountain peaks, clean air, green living, and crystal-clear water sources. One often uses the term “picture-perfect” to describe the scenic beauty of Switzerland as the clean natural environment and green vistas are the most charming aspect of the country’s identity. Apart from being one of the world’s most luxurious destinations and richest nations, the country also enjoys a high ecology rank, which makes it one of the world’s most sustainable countries. The due credit goes to the government as well as the local residents of Switzerland, who have always been sensitive and responsible towards their environment. On World Water Day (March 22, 2021) we take a look at the numerous water conservation efforts undertaken by Switzerland, which can help tackle the problem of water shortage across the world.
How Switzerland emerged as the natural reservoir for the entire European continent:
Pure, clear potable water straight from the mountains: Switzerland holds six percent of Europe’s total freshwater supply in its glaciers, streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater. It is also the source of numerous European rivers, including the Rhine and the Rhone. The Swiss drinking water is a quality product from natural resources – of which 80 percent stems from natural springs and groundwater, and the remaining from over 1,500 lakes. The water here is so pure that it can be drunk anywhere, including in the middle of town, or even directly from some lakes!
Strict laws/rules against pollution: Switzerland has got to this point of sustainability only after years of putting in place rules and laws that conserve its environment and natural resources. Strict regulations on water and its quality by the Federal Council have helped the country maintain its high environmental standards. Waste management is taken very seriously in Switzerland with the ‘polluter pays principle’ reinforcing rules to prevent tourists and locals alike from polluting any place in the country, be it lakes, mountains, or cities.
Carefully planned infrastructure: In addition to these rules, the Federal Council and the people of Switzerland have adopted a series of concrete measures in recent years to safeguard their natural resources. Around 90 percent of Switzerland’s 65,000-kilometre-long network of rivers and streams have been structurally modified to conserve water. This water infrastructure consists of a carefully planned network of dams, canals, and channels to help prevent natural disasters and focus on water management.
Wastewater management: The wastewater treatment plants built over the past 50 years have significantly improved water quality. To eliminate micro-pollutants, including residues from medicines, cosmetics, and pesticides from the water, the Federal Council has decided to add an additional treatment stage to the largest of the approximately 800 wastewater treatment plants in Switzerland over a course of the next 20 years. The council recently adopted an action plan to reduce risk and promote the sustainable use of plant protection products to further decrease the use of pesticides. These measures, together with ongoing renaturation programs, are designed to further improve the environmental condition of Switzerland’s water bodies.
Importance of water bodies in Tourism: No visit to Switzerland is complete without a tour of the country’s most scenic lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. Tourists get to take part in multiple activities in these waters from swimming, fishing, and water skiing, kayaking, stand-up paddling, river rafting, and canoeing, to sightseeing cruises. Each lake in Switzerland offers countless fun-filled activities. In the warmer months, tourists and locals like to cool off by simply putting their clothes in a swim bag and going for a dip in the lakes. With a collection of the most exquisite natural waterfalls, tourists can hike to reach and experience the refreshing energy of these enormous glacial waterfalls up close and personal. Switzerland’s excellent transportation system makes it easy to access almost all water bodies in the country! Switzerland understands well that a healthy, green way of living can be achieved by protecting nature and taking care of all its natural resources. The country actively promotes businesses, academic initiatives, as well as other enterprises to make bio-friendly use of resources to help make the entire world a better place.
(The writer is the Deputy Director and Marketing Head-India for Switzerland Tourism, Consulate General of Switzerland)